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Bhutanese maids get help at hand

Aug 02, 2010

The Bhutan association of women entrepreneurs recently proposed a project to the labour ministry that it would recruit groups of women and train them in services expected of domestic helpers. This would bring them a sense of security and empower them to run the business themselves.

With more and more Bhutanese women working in offices, or choosing to run a business, a substitute to look after their children and run household errands, has been necessitated today.

The government disallowed Bhutanese from bringing in maids from across the borders, just as they restricted those from villages under a certain age.

Barely a year since the rule was implemented, and taking notice of the emerging situation of the almost desperate need for maids at home, especially among young office-going parents in urban areas, a nongovernmental organisation has stepped forward to offer a solution.

The Bhutan association of women entrepreneurs recently proposed a project to the labour ministry, one of which looks at fulfilling the need for domestic helper, a term the association prefers over maids, in the society, and help domestic helper find proper jobs.

If approved, the association’s secretary general Phuntshok Choden said they would train interested women in services expected of domestic helpers.

“When we say domestic helper, it doesn’t just apply to babysitters,” the association’s president said.

The plan is to recruit groups of women and train them under different categories of work, such as dishwashing, baby sitting, cleaning homes, doing laundry and cooking, based on their interest.

“Once they become skilled domestic helpers, they’ll be sent with whoever hires them,” Phuntshok Choden said. “We’ll be the conduit between the employee and the employer.”

She explained that, if a couple wanted a helper for a few hours to look after their baby, the association would send a babysitter, who would then return after completing her time.

“The babysitter can relax and enjoy the rest of the day,” she said.

Likewise, people requiring helpers to clean kitchens or do the laundry could avail of the services.

“People can also specify how many times a day and at what particular time they want a helper,” Phuntshok Choden said. “We’ll take the responsibility if people complain about our helpers’ misconduct or other issues.”

The association’s president Damchae Dem said the organisation wanted to professionalise this cadre of people and the service.

“We’re trying to give dignity and a sense of security among these people in the job,” she said.

Regarding the payment for domestic helpers, the association officials said they were working out the amount with the labour ministry, including the issue of whether the money should be paid directly to the helper or to the association, which will then pay the helpers at the end of the month, depending on the number of hours they worked.

“We’ll definitely set up a standard payment, in accordance with the labour act,” she said. “The age limit for this profession will also be in keeping with labour ministry’s decision.” The association will run the project until a time they feel the domestic helpers are up for the task of running the business themselves.

Many working-mothers Kuensel spoke with were in support of such services.

Choden, a corporate employee, who sends her four-year old son to a day care centre, said she would prefer keeping her son at home with a trained domestic helper, than send him to a clustered day care centre. “He doesn’t like it there anyway,” she said.

A corporate employee, Wangchuk said, while his son stayed at a child care centre between 9 am till lunch time, he had drop his son to his ailing grandmother after lunch. “She has to look after three other little children,” he said.

Kinley Choden, a mother of a 2-year-old, however, disagreed with the idea, because not every family in Bhutan could afford to hire helpers on an hourly basis.

“How long can I hire a helper every day and pay every day?” she said.

Phuntshok Choden said the association was worried of this very issue of whether there would be any takers of the services they intend to offer following a huge investment.

The labour and human resources secretary Dasho Sonam Tenzin said they had to discuss the proposal further.

“We support such a proposal that would benefit the society’s need, but the project requires a more simplified proposal,” he said. “The project will, no doubt, meet the dire needs for domestic helpers.”

BAOWE is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation, registered under the civil society organisation act 2007.

Their objective is to provide women entrepreneurs and women professionals the support they require in capacity building.

Source : Kuensel
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